Quitting your day job and pursuing your dream can be an exciting thing, but cutting that proverbial cord is sometimes easier said than done. Many only dream about making the leap, as very few make the successful transition from a 9-to-5 job to a side hustle.
Lacey Heels and Laura Hart spearhead The Maker’s Collective; a community of freelancers and entrepreneurs looking to turn their passions into a full-time gig. They’re also joined in the collective by Jeff Mitchell, who is Hart’s husband.
Heels was always a side hustler and wanted to escape the corporate world and forge her own path as an entrepreneur. “I was looking for community, that’s really where this all started,” Heels said. “Entrepreneurship is lonely and isolating. So, I just started to look for people that were doing similar things to me.”
Heels and Hart teamed up and launched a podcast. They talk about building a business in today’s climate, and to address the challenges freelancers, creators and entrepreneurs face in the self-made industry.
The duo built a loyal following to where they were releasing weekly episodes and hosting regular meet-up events with listeners. The first Maker’s Collective event sold out within a few hours, and attendees scooped up tickets for the next event just as quickly.
Once upwards of 200 people started showing up for their events, that’s when Heels and Hart knew they tapped into something within their community of entrepreneurs.
“One of the most valuable things about building that podcast audience was it gave us a really great chance to spend time listening and understanding where people were getting stuck and what challenges they were facing, and how we could best help,” Mitchell said.
With in-person events all but shut down during the lockdown periods, The Maker’s Collective transitioned to serve their audience online by last June. Their “Side Hustle 101” course was born out of necessity, and 160 people took the course with the goal of turning their passion into a money-maker.
The Maker’s Collective founders preach that makers need to be ultra-adaptable during the pandemic, and to listen to the needs of their customers and follow their lead, which should ultimately lead to success.
“I think so many people start a business because of ego, and because of that, then they hold on so tightly to this idea of what they’re bringing to life. It’s going to be hard,” Hart said. “And as soon as you start hitting those roadblocks, if you are so attached to that ego side of things, you’re not going to make it.
“Trying to go with the natural flow of your business and where your customers are telling you that they need you to be is what has really helped us.”
For anyone who freelances or does work on the side, there’s a potential shift in dynamic when that passion project suddenly has the pressure of being responsible for putting bread on the table.
Heels paints in her spare time and briefly turned her art into a full-time gig, but once she flipped the switch, she noticed she lost some of that passion once she put pressure on her craft to provide income.
“It’s so interesting when you shift from a passion project — doing it for you — to then monetizing it and making it your full-time gig, then the priority is no longer yourself, it’s your customer and making them happy,” Heels said.
“I’ve always said to any of my friends starting businesses: don’t make your craft responsible for you. Come up with multiple ways to make money so you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.”
Especially now, with so much of the workforce out of work due to layoffs, some seek alternate avenues of income, often looking to monetize their hobbies or something they’re skilled at.
Hart suggested prospective freelancers and entrepreneurs should do their homework when looking to get started because it’s not as simple as charging money for a pastime you do for fun on the weekend.
“Creation out of necessity has always been a thing,” Hart said. “The danger there if you are just jumping into something without a lot of knowledge about how to build a business is, you’re going to spin your wheels potentially doing things in a way that isn’t actually going to move you forward.”
Becoming an entrepreneur or a freelancer can be an isolating and lonesome space, which is why Heels and Hart encourage creators to band together with like-minded people. Sharing successes, failures and experiences can be a useful tool.
“I think the number one thing everyone should be doing is finding a community of like-minded people who are trying to do the same thing,” Heels said. “This is the advice I wish I had been given when I was trying to do it.
“And find ways to teach yourself the skills that you need. We created this program for these people who are asking these questions, who are starting for the first time and are feeling a little lost.”
Hart and Mitchell experienced their own personal life pivot, having to revamp their wedding plans last year. Despite the pandemic, they got hitched this past October, and it provided a poignant lesson of reflection for the pair.
“Do we really care about the opulence of a traditional wedding, or do we care about the fact that we want to spend our lives together?” Hart said. “So, we figured out how to do it and we got married in October, and it was amazing.
“You can still have beautiful moments and you still do the things that you really care about, and you can be with the people that you love. It just might look a little different.”